Judge to lawyers: Please get out of bed and put on a shirt for Zoom court hearings

Zoom conferences have become the norm during the coronavirus pandemic, but a judge would like attorneys to make sure they're dressed appropriately for court hearings being held on the online platform. (Getty Image) (Ariel Skelley/Getty Images)

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Casual attire can be excused for many of our work-from-home virtual calls.

But that can only go so far when you’re a lawyer Zooming into a court hearing.

As courts hold some of their proceedings online to prevent spreading the coronavirus, Broward circuit judge Dennis Bailey described some of what they’re seeing from the bench.

“It is remarkable how many ATTORNEYS appear inappropriately on camera,” Bailey wrote in a letter posted to the Weston Bar Associated website. “We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc. One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers.

“And putting on a beach cover-up won't cover up you're poolside in a bathing suit. So, please, if you don't mind, let's treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.”

Since Broward County’s courthouses were closed March 16, the 17th Judicial Circuit says it has conducted approximately 1,200 Zoom hearings, involving a total of 13,771 participants.

Bailey also noted in his letter that Zoom hearings can take longer than ones held in a courtroom because of technology lag and the issue of “people talking over each other, which challenges the responsibility to make contemporaneous objections.”

“Often, lawyers are not looking at their screens but down at their files, their outlines and notes, or simply out the window, and cannot see the judge is hollering “Stop! Stop!” because an objection has been made and the audio stays with the witness rather than obeying the judge,” Bailey continued.

The judge concluded: “If all this sounds like a challenge, it is. But there is no such thing as an objection to Zoom.”

But yeah, best to make sure you’re wearing some pants.


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